Extreme weather events, which intensify with climate change, can make Americans sick in ways we are just now discovering.
These weather events, such as flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires, knock chemicals and pollutants lose from soils, homes, and industrial sites. These pollutants are spread into the air, water and ground. When people are exposed to them, they can develop illnesses such as cancer and respiratory issues.
An example of one of these chemicals is PCBs. Dr. Naresh Kumar, professor of environmental health at the University of Miami, has researched the spread of PCBs in Puerto Rico. They found that the amount of PCBs tripled after hurricane Maria to 450 parts per million. More troubling, however, was that people had shown elevated levels of these chemicals as well. Dr. Kumar hypothesized that this increase was caused by the hurricane pushing PCBs from old industrial sites into the water, where people ate contaminated fish.
Last year the World Health Organization released a report warning of public health effects of pollutants released during natural disasters, examples included events in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
It's not just industrial waste sites, these toxic chemicals can be found under our sinks, in our garages, even within the walls of our homes. When fires and hurricanes expose these chemicals and allow them to enter our air, water, and ground there is no way of controlling them. A number of studies are currently being conducted to examine the health effects of hurricanes and flooding on Americans. As the dangers are becoming better understood, governments need to do more to protect against toxic chemicals during extreme weather events.
While fertilizers are hardly carcinogenic chemicals, they are a pollutant that can cause environmental and health effects as well. Sign the pledge to reduce nitrogen pollution from lawns.